Plenty of people offer plenty of theories about what exactly selling is. Here’s my theory: Selling is about persuading someone to make a decision. Trying to sell a job in one call isn’t easy. You’re there to get a decision, and it’s human nature to procrastinate. The bigger the decision, the more likely prospects are to put it off.

The sales process itself sets you up for this. If you’re selling the way you should be, you’re asking a lot of open-ended questions. You reach the end of your presentation and move to close. Now you’re asking a question that’s not open-ended but requires a yes or no answer. And yes or no is often the answer people are least inclined to give. They’d rather put off making the decision.

Need To Think It Over

They put it off with objections that are often excuses. Have you ever had a homeowner say, “I’ll think it over and call you back tomorrow”? Have they told you they can’t decide without consulting a friend, colleague, or relative? Certainly you’ve heard that they can’t make a decision without more estimates. And you’re familiar with the delay tactic: “I never make an immediate decision.”

Sometimes these aim to send you politely on your way. But let’s assume you’ve been at the prospect’s house for two hours and you’ve done a great job presenting yourself, your company, and your product. You go to close — Can we do business tonight? — and they tell you they need to see a few more estimates.

Instead of walking away, challenge the prospect by making them accountable. Ask “Who else are you seeing and when?” Or “Do you really want to sit through four more window company presentations?”

Let’s say the reason they give for not buying is that they want to talk to someone else. You can ask them what it is that they want to talk to the other company about.
Let’s say the reason is that they never buy without thinking it over. OK, so why is that? What exactly do they need to think through? Maybe you can help them with that process.

Keep Them Talking

Prospects will answer the questions you ask because people are conditioned to answer. By challenging the excuses they give for not buying, you get them to say what’s really on their minds. It may be they’re not so much avoiding a decision as feeling you out in an effort to get better terms. OK, now you can negotiate. You also reestablish control of the conversation. That means you can direct the conversation to a certain purpose, which is to close them a second time or a third time. But if you want the sale, you have to keep them talking. Silence means the sales appointment is over. —Jake Jacobson is vice president of sales at Premier Window & Building, a Maryland home improvement company. Reach him at